Bee-ing grateful for the little creatures....

By Adeela Akmal
Tue, 05, 20

It’s time to show our gratitude and protect our buzzing little friends. Read on...

world bee day

It has been more than a month since I have stepped out of the house. At first, it didn’t seem too bad. I was managing work pretty easily, catching up on errands and starting new activities. It wasn’t long until the monotony kicked in and I found my sanity slowly chipping away. For a busy bee and a social butterfly like me, it’s not easy to stay inside. Especially, since I am the one usually making plans with friends and family.

In an effort to curb my anxiousness, I decided to take a leisurely stroll in the garden, just outside the house. While the garden is still nicely blanketed by the grass, it was missing the gorgeous plants we once had. The seedbed inside the house now has a large fig and curry tree instead of the two papaya trees and the tallest rose bush I had ever seen. The garden is still a breath of fresh air but there was something almost melancholic about it.

This took me back to one of my summer vacations when I was around 17, stuck at home with no plans whatsoever. That summer was mercilessly hot and humid, and the load shedding piled up on our misery. The afternoons were desolate with no sign of a living being, and the nights didn’t offer any solace either. At night, everyone just abandoned their beds and crashed on the cool tiled floor near the terrace, the only place of comfort. Sometimes, I would lay silently on the terrace in the dark, with no electricity for hours and the UPS burned out long ago, looking up making constellation out of the sky full of stars and figures out of clouds. Then finally one day, after all the humidity, we had the heavy downpour we were all praying for. It rained back to back for days, thankfully shooing away the insufferable weather.

Have you ever seen a sunrise after a heavy downpour? How does one define such a scene? I’d say it’s breath-taking, majestic, divine, but even these words fall short if you actually see it.

The silver clouds still lingered but you could see the light peeking through. The sky was shades of yellow, auburn and grey – all at the same time. As the sun rose further up, you could start seeing the blue as well. Come morning, the singing of the birds and critters cut through the silence. The tranquillity of this morning was much different than the ones I had experienced before – and have yet to experience again. There was more chirpiness to the bird songs, the flowers seemed to smell sweeter and I felt more awake.

Slowly, the little birds started gathering around the terracotta bowls – one with pearl millet (bajra) and the other with water – taking their pick and flying off. I witnessed five types of birds that morning, which I didn’t even know were part of our environment. Butterflies and bees weren’t a rarity and parrots would freely fly around the garden to feast on the sunflower seeds. I vividly remember this memory, how I felt and how the whole scene transitioned before my eyes.

My mother was the one who actively began nurturing this garden around a decade ago. Then, we got busier in our fast-paced lives and my mother didn’t have enough energy left to cater to a garden with regularity.

Reminiscing this, I realise that it’s so easy to forget and overlook little details when are busy trying to make big things happen; when really it is the little things that make big things happen. Nature is resilient, it makes its own way. As the major human activities came to halt during the pandemic, we saw the Earth started healing itself. The skies cleared up, the air quality improved, the noise pollution lessened and I’m hoping there’s less misery for the aquatic life too.

The reason why this memory has stayed with me is because this was the last time I really felt the environment spoke to me. If I went near the terracotta bowls to fill them up, the birds wouldn’t fly away. The plants looked happier then and it’s been ages since I have seen any butterflies or any interesting looking creatures in this little ecosystem.

More than 75 percent of the world’s food crops depend, to some extent, on pollination. Pollinators, like bees, butterflies, birds, moths, beetles, and even bats, help plants reproduce. These little creatures help sustain life on earth by carrying pollen from one flower to another contributing to food security and nutrition. Moreover, they serve as sentinels for emergent environmental risks, signalling the health of local ecosystems. Pollination also helps maintaining biodiversity and the vibrant ecosystems. Unfortunately, bees and other pollinators are increasingly under threat from human activities. To raise awareness of the importance of our little eco-warriors, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20th May as World Bee Day.

There are many reasons why these pollinators are under threat: insecticides; pollution of rivers and water sources; pollution of the soil which contaminates plants; extreme climates; reduction of wild prairies; mono-crop culture; the extension of lawns; industrial beekeeping practices, etc. The list is sadly too long and the bees are becoming weaker and die off faster.

I realised why my garden had looked so sad and not so lively as I last remembered. We have taken our connection with nature for granted, for far too long. When our senses are dulled, it gives us an escape. Our utopia is right in front of us and we walk right by it.

To help bring back the skip in the green, we must protect these pollinators. Avoid using any pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on plants or in your garden. Plants get contaminated and the product will likely reach the bees and kill them. Plant your garden with native and bee friendly plants. They provide great sources of nectar and pollen for the bees and butterflies. Also, avoid planting big lawns, they are literally like a desert for insects and for wild plants. Care for them during the heat. Even if you just have a small balcony, you can install a little water basin for the bees to drink during the warm day of summer. Put a few stones and floating cork on the water so the bees won’t drown!

It’s time to show our gratitude and protect our buzzing little friends.